#LiterarySpoons: A New Twitter Hashtag Event for Spoonie Writers

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Welcome to the Q & A for #LiterarySpoons, a brand new Twitter hashtag event hosted by me and @SpoonieCult. The purpose of #LiterarySpoons is for writers who identify as spoonies – which includes those who are chronically ill, disabled, mentally ill, and/or neurodiverse – to share their writing with the community. Our first #LiterarySpoons event will take place Thursday, October 13th from 5-7PM PST / 8-10PM EST / 12AM-2AM GMT.

Question 1: How do I share my original writings?

Answer: Compose a new tweet and include a title, description, and link to each piece. They can be in the form of blog posts, articles, essays, poems, stories, screenshots, etc. They could be published on blog sites like WordPress or Tumblr, in literary magazines or journals, or in online magazines or news outlets. Make sure you include the hashtag #LiterarySpoons and specify any mature content or trigger warnings. The posts will be moderated and any offensive or copyright-infringing content will be reported.

If you need a free, fast, and safe place to post your work, I recommend creating an account on Medium and using that as a platform to host your content. With Medium, there’s no need for layout or website setup.

Question 2: Does the writing I share have to relate to being a spoonie?

Answer: Nope! Subject matter and genre is entirely open. The point of the event is for us to showcase our best work. If that involves being a spoonie, great! If it’s a story about a unicorn, that’s fine too! The material doesn’t need to be new or written specifically for this event. The only requirement is that it’s original.

Question 3: Is there a limit to how many pieces I can post?

Answer: There’s no official limit, but be mindful and considerate of the event. Don’t flood the stream with your work. I’d say five posts total would be around the maximum. That will allow others to share their work without getting lost in the feed.

Question 4: What exactly is a spoonie, anyway?

Answer: The term came from a blog post written by Christine Miserandino called “The Spoon Theory.” Those of us battling chronic illness, mental illness, and disability often have trouble keeping up with day-to-day life. Our energy has to be measured out, and Christine chose the metaphor of measuring that energy in spoons. How we feel can be unpredictable and vary from one moment to the next. That’s why many of us call ourselves “spoonies.”

The term has morphed into a wonderful and supportive online community and a shorthand way of identifying ourselves.

Question 5: What if I can’t attend the event during the date and time it’s scheduled? Can I still participate?

Answer: Absolutely! I recommend scheduling your posts in advance using a free service like HootSuite. You can hop on the thread whenever you’re able to and read other people’s posts.

Question 6: Is this just a one-time event?

Answer: We’re hoping to make #LiterarySpoons an ongoing monthly event. You can follow me, @alanasaltz, and @SpoonieCult to stay updated on future events.

If you have any questions that weren’t answered here, please leave a comment or send me a tweet. I hope to see you and your writing on the hashtag!

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Surviving The Waiting Game

These days, so much of my life revolves around waiting. I spend hours, sometimes days, working on an essay, query, or cover letter before I send it out, excited and hopeful and scared all at the same time.

medium_6236143793I watch my inbox, eagerly awaiting some kind of response. Days go by, sometimes weeks, sometimes months. I want to hear something, some kind of news about whether my essay will be published, an agent wants to see my manuscript, a job wants to schedule an interview. I start to worry more about what the silence means. I’m scared it means rejection. I soon convince myself that no one likes me and I’ll never hear from anyone about anything again. I’m a failure and a loser and I’ll never get anywhere in life. I’ll never be successful.

Then, an email comes in. Some kind of response. A blog wants my essay, an agent requests the manuscript, a job would like to schedule a phone interview. I’m happy and relieved…for a few minutes. Then I’m back to worrying about all the other things I haven’t heard back about yet. Sometimes, I get the response that I dread: I’ve been rejected. In that case, I indulge myself in some self-pity before eventually getting back to work.

This is the plight of creative people, of course. I’m lucky to live in a time where I can just email stuff out instead of printing and mailing and waiting even longer for a response. But email has a downside – it gives the illusion of efficiency, the misconception that a fast response should be expected. My essays, queries, cover letters are only one in so many. I have to wait my turn.

The only way I get through it is to keep busy. I write new essays, research agents, look for more jobs. The more I send out, the more likely it is I’ll hear something from someone. The nervous energy drives me. The desire for reassurance, for accomplishment, for validation is underneath everything I do. I try to take breaks, stay calm. I go for walks, spend time with people I care about, watch something on Netflix. But I can’t help worrying about the uncertainty.

I know this is what a creative life looks like. I can’t let any one thing get me down or derail me, and I can’t live my life around responses from others. But in many ways, I don’t have a choice. I need those responses to be a successful writer. That’s why waiting for them is so hard. That’s why rejection hurts so much.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. As an anxious person, that’s what tears me apart. I have to learn to live with my uncertainty better. I have to keep things in perspective, acknowledge the accomplishments, and let go of the rejections. That’s the only way to survive the waiting game. I just wish those things were easier to do.

 

(photo credit: Jukie Bot via photopin cc)

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My Only New Year’s Resolution

2014 was a tough year. It was a year of loss for myself and many of my loved ones. It was the year that many celebrities we admired passed away. It was a year of cultural unrest, protests, and senseless tragedies.

Thinking of all of this has gotten me down. Depressed. Especially since I’ve just reached a turning point in my own life: my graduation from graduate school. Being done with my MFA means that I no longer have the shelter and safety of school to protect me. It’s time for me to get out there, work, and truly make a name for myself as a writer. And that scares me.

medium_15543621263I’m not a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions. It’s a nice concept, that each year we reexamine what we want from life and what we’d like to be different. Goals are good, and they can be very helpful. But the goals that people make for New Years are often superficial:

It’s time to finally lose that extra weight. It’s time to figure out a new career path, go back to school, be a more accomplished person. It’s time to finally be a “real” creative person, writing, or practicing music, or making new art a certain amount every day.

Hours, word counts, production, successes.

Right now, I’m not sure that 2015 is going to be a better year than last year. If I were to make New Year’s Resolutions, they would be numerous. Like others, they would involve my weight, my career path, and my creative accomplishments. They would involve hours, word counts, production, successes. But I’m not going to make a list.

Instead, I’m going to try to be a little more positive. That’s it. That’s the goal, the resolution, that I truly need to focus on. Because focusing on what’s wrong, what’s problematic, where I’m failing, is only getting me down. That’s the problem with many of our New Year’s Resolutions: they get us down.

I’m not a big “positive thinking” person. I’m actually the opposite. Despite knowing better, I believe that thinking negatively will protect me from bad things, or at least prepare me for them. And I certainly don’t subscribe to the belief that positive thinking works miracles or magically pulls good things into your life.

However, I do believe that thinking more positively can make you feel better. It can make you feel happier and more hopeful. It’s hard to hang onto that knowledge when I feel really negative and depressed, when life seems hopeless and ridiculous and unfair. It’s hard to fight those negative thoughts, the ones that inspire our resolutions.

Still, I want to try. I resolve to try.

I hope that you’ll all join me on my quest to have a more positive year, amidst any new tragedies, frustrations, struggles, and losses. My resolution is to try not to lose hope, even when things get bad. It’s to stop going right to sadness and hopelessness when I think of the future. I want to be in good moments, see all the possibilities, and move forward in my life with just a little bit of optimism. If I can do that, I’ll definitely have a happier new year.

   

(photo credit: BeeFortyTwo via photopin cc)

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10 Must-Read Memoirs About Mental Illness, Addiction, and Disorders

Memoirs give us the unique ability to enter the mind and experiences of someone suffering from a mental illness, addiction, or disorder. To truly be immersed in someone’s story is invaluable and necessary in understanding what they’re going through. Here are my top 10, must-read memoirs that deal with these struggles.

loud51wzZR8o3hL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Loud in the House of Myself by Stacy Pershall

A captivating and unflinchingly honest memoir about one young woman’s struggle with borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder.

 

9780679746041_p0_v1_s260x4202. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Perhaps you’ve seen the movie, but the book is well-worth a read. It focuses on Kaysen’s time spent in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960s.

 

51L90SoGhIL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_3. Manic by Terri Cheney

Cheney spares no detail when sharing the exploits of her most manic moments.

 

51nRtjlO7jL4. Purge: Rehab Diaries by Nicole Johns

The memoir is told in a series of vignettes based on the three months that Johns spent in eating disorder rehabilitation treatment.

 

51LMIy4MEvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_5. Monkey Mind by Daniel Smith

A compelling and detailed  memoir about one man’s struggle with anxiety disorder.

 

51YHs+JVgqL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_6. Love Sick by Sue William Silverman

An intimate recounting of the month Silverman spent in a rehab center for sexual addition.

 

Look_Me_in_the_Eye_(book_cover)7. Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison

Asperger’s is much talked-about, yet little-understood. Robison encounters his own unique set of challenges resulting from this neurological disorder.

 

Jamison_-_anquite_mind8. An Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison

Jamison details her experiences with manic depression, as well as the insights she’s gained through her academic study of mental health.

 

61cctYHga9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_9. I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Kilmer-Purcell tackles the difficult, and often stigmatized, themes of alcohol abuse and addiction. He manages to address addiction in a way that is relatable without being sentimental or stereotypical.

 

9780439339056_p0_v1_s260x42010. My Thirteenth Winter by Samantha Abeel

This young adult memoir tackles the issue of learning disabilities, in addition to the resulting social and clinical anxiety that can manifest as a result.

 

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Robin Williams and The Never-Ending Battle Against Depression

medium_3462043780Hearing the news of Robin William’s apparent suicide hit me the way I’m sure it hit many others who have suffered, or still suffer, from depression. It made me think about my own moments of darkness and hopelessness when I seriously considered taking the pills or slashing open my wrists to make it all end. I’ve spent the past five years writing a book about such moments, so I’m still glued into them like they happened to me yesterday.

What some people may not know about me is that I continue to fight off feelings of depression, as well as anxiety, on a daily basis. Although I identify as someone who has recovered from the worst of my mental illnesses, these things never truly go away. There’s the constant fear of a relapse, the fear that anything (or nothing) could pull me back in. There are the continued pains and fears and worries that haunt me even on the best of days.

Depression distorts your thoughts. It makes the world black and white. It sucks all the light and air out of you. Maybe there’s something that triggered it, something that brought you to that point. Sometimes there’s no reason, and that’s even worse somehow. You just want the pain to stop. People don’t understand what’s wrong with you. They tell you to just smile, to just be happy. You reach the point when you can’t think of any alternatives because it’s gone on for so long and you’ve already tried everything to make it better. It feels like it will never get better, like it will never end.

Some people have suggested that Robin Williams should have just asked for help. I’m sure he did. I asked for help too when I was a teenager. I got all the help money and insurance could buy. Help got me medications that made me feel sick and worse, therapists who were incompetent and uncaring, and a month-long psych hospitalization that did little other than prevent me from going through with my plan to kill myself. Help also eventually got me a therapist who cared about me and saved my life, the right combination of medications that balanced what was imbalanced, and even an alternative high school that provided me the resources I needed to recover and graduate.

Help can be good, and it can be bad. It’s not fool-proof, and it’s not perfect.

The best thing we can do for people suffering from depression is to be empathetic and open-minded. We can offer help and hope it does what it’s supposed to. We can listen, care, and try to understand. Depression is an illness. It’s a disease. No one asks for it, and no one wants it. Overcoming it can be be the hardest thing you ever do. Not everyone is lucky enough to make it.

I was lucky, and I hope I continue to be lucky. I have more resources, more experience, and more love and support than I did at the worst of my depression. But Robin shows us that you can have so much – a family, friends, a meaningful career, an enduring sense of humor – and still lose it all to depression. That’s how powerful it is. That’s how real it is.

Let’s not allow this conversation about depression and suicide to pass as our attentions wander to new tragedies and events. Let’s make sure we’re there for people, that we advocate for better treatment and research, that we keep our eyes open to those who might be suffering and alone. Let’s be kind to ourselves, be patient with our pain, and remember that it is possible to survive and overcome even the worst moments of sadness and depression.

 
(photo credit: Frodrig via photopin cc)

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